“An adventurous loop with brilliant views using one of the most exhilarating trails in the park.”
— Zander Göpfert
First of all -WARNING: if you are afraid of heights, you should skip this one - don’t even think about it, seriously! But for those who don’t have a problem literally inching along a precipice, this route combines a fantastic “non-technical” (but still very challenging) climb with a wonderful sense of adventure and great views of Frenchman Bay and the under-appreciated Schoodic Peninsula (another part of the park that’s a bit removed from the main area) to the east. Wait until you reach the path’s summit, however, before you take in the views.
This loop hike climbs up the Precipice Trail
from its trailhead off Park Loop Road. At the base of the cliff wall, the trail inches its way up the steep and extremely craggy eastern side of Champlain Mountain; this is undoubtedly the park’s most famous trail and the one that most adventurers want to claim they have done. It has quite a reputation for a path that is less than a mile long.
You should begin your hike at the path’s trailhead, which is located just to the west of the Park Loop Road (there is a parking lot directly across from the start). The trail starts climbing and snaking its way up the mountain from the very beginning. It doesn’t get too steep, however, until after you’ve reached the 0.4-mile point, when the trail intersects with the Orange & Black Path
. This will be where you return on the loop to head down the section of the Precipice Trail
you just came up.
From this intersection, you'll turn back to the southwest and start climbing approximately 550 feet over the next 0.3 miles. This section contains a number of iron rungs, metal ladders, a series of wooden bridges, and several switchbacks which help you climb and scramble you way up the rugged side of Champlain Mountain. Make sure you have a strong grip and a good sense of balance before you try to negotiate your way up this path. At about 0.7 miles, the trail will become a little more gradual until you reach the end of the path at Champlain Mountain’s summit at 1,058 feet.
Once you’ve summited, do not try to go back down the trail. That would make it extremely difficult for others coming up the path, not to mention, put you in a much more dangerous situation than you were when you climbed up the path. To return to the start, take the Champlain North Ridge Trail
northward for another 0.7 miles until it intersects with the Orange & Black Path/Champlain Ridge
, which will head south to continue onto the Orange & Black Path
. Take this heading south, not east, which will continue back toward the parking lot for another mile.
Overall, this is a highly rewarding loop hike, but one that you must be in good shape to tackle, not to mention free from any fear of heights.